By Steven Bezaire
That “Honour in Service” is still the Windsor Police Service’s official motto might be the most extraordinary of all the curiosities surrounding one of its officers fatally shooting an innocent pet owner’s dog in its own fenced yard in broad daylight. And, if you believe the old saying that the fish rots from the head down, you cannot help but fear that new Police Chief Pam Mizuno’s reaction to this incident is an ominous portent of another tone deaf administrator settling in at 150 Goyeau St.
As reported by CBC and the Windsor Star, on March 18 of this year, Windsor Police attended at a residence in Forest Glade at approximately 11:00am. to arrest an individual on an outstanding warrant from another jurisdiction. While an officer, or officers, knocked at the front door, two others apparently entered a gated backyard to the residence before anyone in their party even addressed the homeowner, Diane Scott (whose son’s friend was the person sought at the home). Upon hearing the knock at the door, and before answering it, Ms. Scott let her 10-year-old Rottweiler-Doberman mix, “Chloe”, outside into the fenced back yard, apparently because the dog was excitable around unfamiliar people. As she was answering the front door, she heard a bang, and was promptly advised to attend to her dog which had just been shot – within the fenced back yard. Although it is unclear if the officer(s) at the front door had by then presented a copy of the warrant to her, it has been reported, and Ms. Scott advised that the Police acknowledged to her (if it was not already self-evident by the timing), that the officers had entered the back yard before she answered the door. Ms. Scott incurred a $4000 veterinarian bill for (unsuccessful) surgery and will now also incur costs for Chloe’s cremation. On the morning of March 25, one week to the day of the incident, recently minted Police Chief Pam Mizuno (sort of) apologized in comments during the Windsor Police Service Board meeting – but apparently sent her Deputy Chief to deliver condolences in person to Ms. Scott.
I should add, for completeness only, that some people believe it is also relevant that: the party sought by the Police was wanted in another jurisdiction “for serious offences” (although, exactly what that means and whether he presented as a danger to anyone’s safety that day was not disclosed – and, lest it need be pointed out, the Windsor Police Service authored the statement); the suspect was present at the house and was arrested successfully; Ms. Scott knew, and readily admitted, that the suspect was in her home (although whether she knew he was a “suspect” is unknown); and Chloe was a Rottweiler-Doberman mix.
Although the March 18, 2021 WPS initial statement said only that “The incident is currently under investigation”, its updated statement the following day omitted reference to that and instead described the occurrence thusly:
Officers were acting in accordance with their duties and during the course of the investigation, a dog became aggressive and charged towards officers while outside. At one point, an officer believed their safety was in jeopardy due to the dog lunging at them and attempting to bite them multiple times. The officer responded to this by discharging their firearm. (from WPS Statement on March 19/21 – italic emphasis added to demonstrate inaccurate and selectively dishonest language)
After the meeting, and while acknowledging the existence of the investigation, Chief Mizuno, defended the officers’ actions in her comments to CBC: “Unfortunately, sometimes it’s necessary. When an officer’s in imminent danger, it’s an option that a police officer has to use. I understand our officer had to make a split-second decision.” In so referencing these melodramatic, exigent circumstances, the Chief neglected to mention that her officers had no reason to have been in “imminent danger” or to have been forced to make such a grim, life-threatening choice in what was, clearly, a self-imposed predicament. This was not a high-risk dynamic entry with night-vision goggles at a drug house with vicious guard dogs. This was a couple agents of the State, walking up a driveway and opening a gate to prematurely enter someone’s back yard in a residential subdivision on a sunny Thursday morning. If the media accounts of the facts are accurate, a civil court will almost certainly agree, sanction the WPS, and readjust accounts between it and Ms. Scott.
But what of the Chief’s response to this incident? What about ‘Honour in Service’? What in the name of basic human decency took her a whole week to publicly acknowledge the tragedy of such a needless loss? Was she too busy to personally attend to apologize to Ms. Scott on behalf of the Force? And why is the WPS propaganda machine still spinning such tired, contrived and intelligence-insulting drivel in its public statements? Wasn’t Chief Mizuno’s promotion, heralding her as the first female Chief in the Service’s history just 17 short months ago a definitive sign that this fossilized institution was rounding an enlightened corner? Wasn’t she determined to dent the long-derided “Windsor Way” of the old boys’ club where institutionalized entitlement, impervious resistance to criticism and seeming indifference to transparency was the norm?
And no, the delay in apologizing is not explainable by reference to the matter ‘being under investigation’, nor is Chief Mizuno muzzled by some law or complicated obscure police policy (at least not any beyond her control). Any 2nd year law student with a laptop and an hour to spare could find and summarize the effect of Ontario’s now decade-old Apology Act and conclude from that single page of legislation that no negative consequence to the Windsor Police Service’s interests in any investigation, insurance coverage or future proceeding could be negatively impacted, as evidence of apologies are no longer even admissible in Ontario courts.
The simple fact is that if Chief Mizuno and the Windsor Police Service cared enough to do the (dare I say) “honourable” thing, nothing prevented it in the face of everything commending it. And so, an opportunity calling for a little show of institutional humanity is fumbled into another black mark for the Force. The new Chief should decide if she has the courage to lead this Force proactively and courageously, or if the City is destined again for another version of “Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.” In the meantime, the old motto to “Serve and Protect” may wear better.
[Post Script: Media reports indicate that, after the shooting, WPS members wrapped Chloe’s wound and applied pressure for the thirty minutes it took to summon a transport van to take her to a veterinarian for emergency surgery – which she didn’t survive. Am I alone in wondering, why an officer’s coat or a blanket, a lap, and a taxpayer-issued cruiser might not have been a response more reflective of the emergency they created?]